The Babies!

Friday, October 30, 2009

34 Week Ultrasound Photos

Three photos from my 34 week ultrasound on Tuesday. (Now that I've been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, they're going to be monitoring me more closely-- which means more ultrasounds.) I would swear the middle picture looks like a miniature Jay. But maybe that's just my pregnant imagination.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

34 weeks

I hired my doula this week. When we met for the first time she said: "You're so cute. You're all belly!" And so I am...

(Pardon the crazy hair.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Not Exactly Mother of the Year (33w5d)

It has struck me on several occasions in the past few months that I should be more excited-- or, more accurately, that I'm expected to be more excited. The nagging notion that I'm not quite as delighted by the prospect of impending motherhood as others think I should be has caused me a bit of concern-- and some guilt. Other people-- strangers, even-- seem more excited about me being pregnant than I am. If I hear the phrases precious gift or blessing from God one more time, I might vomit (except I refuse to vomit while I'm pregnant because it's automatically attributed to "morning sickness"). If one more woman gets a little misty eyed over my big belly, I might hit her (unlike vomiting, I have no reluctance to use violence as a response). And if one more man beams at me and tells me how wonderful it is to be a dad, I might give him an earful-- starting with, of course being a dad is wonderful-- you not only get to keep your body, you get to keep your identity, too. Society is simply kinder to fathers, so what's not to love about the experience? No pain, no guilt for having your own life, and women think you're a freaking hero if you take care of your own kid for a few hours.

I know how shocking this will sound to some (many?) people, but it's the truth: I don't think motherhood is the end all, be all of my existence. I do not think of my child in strictly fuzzy wuzzy lovey terms. I don't cry over diaper commercials. I loathe minivans. If I see a couple with a baby and a dog, I'm going to look at the puppy first. I might not even look at the baby. I do sometimes check out strollers and I always pay attention to the division of labor-- and it's almost always the mother who is doing the feeding, the soothing, the carting the kid to the bathroom for a diaper change. All the while, dad is grinning broadly and telling anyone within earshot how wonderful it is to be a dad.

I realize, of course, that for many people-- more women than men-- parenthood really is their one and only calling in life. I know some of those people. I didn't understand it before I was ready to have a child and I don't understand it now, in the weeks before I have my baby. I certainly don't anticipate understanding it once I have this baby. It's just not the way I'm made.

It's not that I'm dreading motherhood. Well, not entirely. I'm dreading these first few months and for one glaringly obvious reason-- I will be the sole care provider for an infant. Does that sound like fun to anyone? If it does, do you want to be my nanny? But even if Jay was going to be here, I would still be looking at the next few months as a very difficult, very trying time in my life. Probably the most difficult and the most trying (and that's saying something). I have no rose colored glasses to put on, no illusions to shatter. I know that taking care of a child-- especially an infant-- is demanding, exhausting and almost without reward. (I know, I know, the baby is his own special reward, right? Please.) I know what I'm in for-- or I know as much as anyone who hasn't had a child and has very little experience with babies can know. And it scares the hell out of me, even while I'm mentally preparing myself for the sleep deprivation, the sense of isolation, the pain (of childbirth, recovery and breastfeeding) and the loss of identity, at least temporarily.

Maybe it won't be as bad as all that. Maybe it will. It's funny, but the same women who tell me horror stories about their childbirth experiences are the ones whose babies are little golden angels who bring nothing but sunshine and rainbows and dirty diapers that smell like bouquets of roses. It makes me wonder what drugs they're putting in those epidurals, to be honest. Some would call it unconditional love-- but I think it's more the fear of admitting that it isn't all sunshine and rainbows and rose smelling diapers. Or wanting others to suffer as much as they have suffered.

I do believe in unconditional love, but I don't necessarily believe in love in first sight. It may take some time to grow to love a crying, smelly, demanding bundle of joy. By the way, where is the joy they're talking about? But no amount of unconditional love is going to make me leap for joy when I have to clean up projectile vomit (or worse). No amount of unconditional love is going to make me think my baby is the most beautiful baby in the world if he looks like a troll. Some babies are ugly babies. It's a fact of life. And, for the benefit of my own sanity and self-respect, I'm not going to try to polish a turd just to make myself feel better about the whole thing.

So, I'm dealing in reality here, trying to be as pragmatic as I possibly can about an experience that I've signed up for. It's a bit like joining a gym (not that I've ever joined a gym)-- you know it's going to hurt and you know you're going to suffer, but somewhere down the road you'll be glad you did it. I like babies at a comfortable distance and toddlers not at all, so the first few years of this kid's life will certainly be an interesting experience for me. When I think of motherhood, I most often see myself with him when he's older-- when he has his own mini-life of school and friends and interests outside of home. When I can talk to this human being I've created and admire him for the person he is becoming and not just for the cute little outfit I've dressed him in. That appeals to me, that makes me smile. But it's going to be a long haul getting there.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Who Knows? (33w1d)

With less than seven weeks to go, it feels like the clock is ticking even louder and faster these days. I have lists and more lists, trying to get as organized as possible. Is it possible? Who knows, but it makes the days fly by to live by a list.

I'm tired all the time now. I'm sure it's a combination of factors that make me feel like I'm walking through molasses most of the time, but the afternoon naps of the first trimester are baaaack. I don't mind too much-- except when it interferes with getting those lists crossed off.

Every piece of advice I'm given gets filed away for future reference. People I hardly know offer their help in the form of phone numbers on slips of paper and e-mails and Facebook messages. It's hard to imagine me calling on anyone for help (and if you know me, you're nodding in agreement), but I take all of the offers seriously. Again, who knows what the future will bring? I might very well find it necessary to call the wife (whom I've never met) of the guy who comes Starbucks to work on his classwork for his graduate program. God, I can't even imagine how bad things would have to be for that scenario to come true. But I appreciate the offer of assistance.

Everyone asks if Jay will be here for the birth. Um... who knows? My life, at least this portion of my life, is a great big neon question mark right now. I smile and shrug and say we hope so. There's not much I can do about that right now. Baby is on his own schedule and will be here when he gets here (unless my OB has his way and induces me-- which I'm fighting). Hopefully he'll be kind enough to give me a warning-- or take his sweet time once he starts his journey (though I'm not sure how I feel about being in labor for a day or two)-- and Jay will be here. If not, Jay will be here shortly after. In either case, I will be here and baby will be here and really, no matter what I might want, that's all that's required for this particular equation.

So I work on my lists and nap as my body demands and rub my stomach and tell baby to hang out for awhile and not arrive early. All of the questions will be answered soon enough-- at least the ones about his birthday and the guests in attendance. For a little while, everything will seem clear and then all of those parenting questions will start and I'll be back to saying "Who knows?" soon enough.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Getting There (32w2d)

Just a little update on the rest of the pregnancy goings-on:

My OB appointments are every 2 weeks now. That will change to every week at 36 weeks. I meet with the diabetic counselor on the 23rd and I have a growth scan (ultrasound) on the 27th. Hopefully baby isn't a 10-pounded already. (Scary thought.)

I am in the process of hiring a doula. I've spoken to a couple of midwives and childbirth instructors and I have a few referrals. I spoke with one of the doulas today and I really liked her, so we're going to meet on the 28th. (I also like that she's a former English teacher-- completely irrational, I know.)

My stack of reading material has grown. I bought Your Best Birth last week and got Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method today (yay Amazon!). Suzanne is going to bring me a few more books when we meet on the 28th. I know I won't remember everything I'm reading, but hopefully enough of it will stick so that when the time comes I won't be completely unprepared.

My pregnancy and childbirth books will soon give way to the new parenting books and that stack is growing, too. So far, I have Secrets of the Baby Whisperer (my second copy-- I loaned my first copy out a few years ago and never got it back), On Becoming Babywise and What to Expect the First Year. Now I'm looking for a good resource on breastfeeding.

I have pre-registered at the hospital and I'm going to start packing my hospital bag this week. I still need a few things (baby's coming home outfit, a diaper bag), but packing what I have will make me feel better. I can handle just about anything if I feel like I'm prepared-- or as prepared as I can be. Having a bag packed and waiting makes me feel prepared. At least for now.

I am working on a contact/information page for anyone who needs it. It includes Jay's contact information in Dubai, the number for the Red Cross and the information they would need to get Jay home, Sheri's phone number, as well the numbers of my obstetrician and a few friends. I'm still hopeful Jay will make it home before the birth (and if I end up needing to be induced because of the GD, he should be), which means I'll have Jay, Sheri and my doula in the delivery room with me. That's the best case scenario. Worst case is I go into labor early and I only have the doula. (Actually, worst case would be going into labor before I've actually hired the doula, but I won't think about that.)

The baby announcements have been pre-ordered and the envelopes should be here in a couple of days so I can address them (and my holiday cards) over the next few weeks. The actual announcements will include a photo of the baby (which I'm going to put in Sheri's capable hands) on a snowflake background. Of course, if baby comes in November I'll have to change the design, I think. November isn't really snowflakey, at least not in Virginia.

And even though it's not pregnancy or baby related, I am almost finished with my holiday shopping. The goal is to be finished by the end of this month (readjusted from my goal of being finished by the end of September) and get everything wrapped and out-of-state presents packaged. The helpful postal worker at the post office informed me that I can order holiday stamps now online rather than waiting until they're in the post office (not until after Thanksgiving). Good to know. It's funny that I complain every year about how early the retail holiday season starts, but I'm frustrated this year because it seems to be taking them forever to put out the Christmas decorations. Baby needs a Christmas stocking! (As of tonight, baby does have a little red sleeper that says My First Christmas.)

So, that's where I am at 32 weeks, with hopefully 8 weeks to go, but likely a little less. My doctor would prefer I not go past 39 weeks, but he's agreed to wait and see what the growth scan reveals about baby's size-- and conceded he'd let me go until my due date as long as we're not having problems.

Just a few more weeks to go. I don't know that I'll ever be ready, but I can try.

Gestational Diabetes Update (32w2d)

I failed my one-hour glucose tolerance test the week before Jay deployed. I was hoping I'd pass, but I wasn't that shocked about failing. I went through the arduous three-hour glucose test last Monday, after putting it off for almost a week so I wouldn't have to prep for it while Jay was still home. The three hour test involves a three-day carb-heavy diet, 12 hours of fasting prior to the test, a blood draw followed by 100 grams of Glucola (super sugary beverage and twice the amount as the 1 hour test) and then three additional blood draws at 1 hour intervals. If you fail two of the blood draws, you fail the three hour test. I failed three of the four. I have gestational diabetes.

Rubbing salt in the wound was the fact that I didn't find out I failed the three hour test for a week. The results of the one hour test came back in 24 hours and I had been told "No news is good news." So when they didn't call the day after my three hour test, I thought I passed. But no, it just took longer to get the test results.

I was pissed off when I found out. Through this whole pregnancy, I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop-- meaning, I was waiting for it to be over. The pregnancy itself has been going well, but it feels like a whole shoe store has been dropped on my head in the past couple of months (with Jay's deployment being the equivalent of a steel-toed boot to the head) and this diagnosis of gestational diabetes was One More Thing to Deal With. Ugh.

Of course, part of me feels like a failure. I thought I knew my body and I really didn't think I had gestational diabetes. I wasn't surprised when I found out I was anemic (the day I took the one-hour glucose tolerance test), but I argued with my doctor over my blood pressure-- I knew it was spiking because of stress and I was right (though I still had to indulge him and go through the tests to prove it). But I was wrong about the GD and it's a lousy feeling, all the more so because it doesn't just affect me, it affects baby. And I feel rather protective of baby, you know?

Gestational diabetes supposedly goes away once the baby is born, which means I only have to deal with it for the next few weeks (although I am at greater risk of developing diabetes later in life). In the meantime, I have to do something I haven't done since I was 19 years old-- follow a diet. Never mind that it seems absolutely cruel to put a pregnant woman on a diet, I have spent my entire adult life resisting restrictions and limits of any kind, and developing a fairly healthy body image in the process. And now, when I've happily embraced this beach ball belly I'm carrying around, I have to follow a diet. Ironic, huh?

It's been a couple of days since I got the test results and I'm okay with it now. Only 3-5% of women develop GD, but it doesn't have to be a serious issue as long as it's controlled (the side effects of uncontrolled GD range from a big baby to stillbirth). Hopefully diet will be enough to control it and I can avoid insulin (oral wouldn't be so bad, but I can't even imagine giving myself injections). So I will embrace the diet! It's not a weight loss diet (but I will probably lose a few pounds), but a diet for health. And even though I have to give up dessert and chocolate and-- gasp!-- Halloween candy, it's really not so bad. I don't meet with the diabetic counselor until next Friday (which seems ridiculous since there is such a big deal made about uncontrolled gestational diabetes), so I'm trying to preemptively adjust my diet now. Of course, it's difficult to know if I'm on track since I'm not testing my blood sugar. But I'm doing what I can-- and avoiding the bowl of Halloween chocolate and the pint of Ben and Jerry's in the freezer.

This may be the first time I've felt like a failure as a mother, but I suspect it won't be the last. So, lesson learned: get up, dust myself off, and do the best I can to correct my shortcomings.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Sleep Pattern of a Pregnant Insomniac

There is an app for the iPhone called Labor Mate. Basically, it acts as a stop watch to record labor pains. Instead of having to track the duration and length between contractions, Labor Mate does it for you. I don't need Labor Mate quite yet, but I did find another use for it: tracking how little sleep I get in a typical night. Last night, I opened the Labor Mate program and began tracking how often I was awake in the course of the night. Every time I got up to go to the bathroom, get a glass of water, let the dog out, redirect the blind, disoriented cat who can't find his bed, was awoken by a noise or a hip pain or the baby kicking or my arm falling asleep or the lawn service mowing the lawn, I tapped the Labor Mate.

Here are the results:

2:15 AM -- In bed, lights out.

3:01 AM

4:17 AM

5:31 AM

5:57 AM

7:26 AM

8:15 AM

8:35 AM

9:03 AM

10:12 AM -- Up for the day.

I was up 8 times from the time I went to bed until the time I got up. I did skip a couple of taps because I went back to sleep pretty quickly. The longest I went between tapping was 1 hour and 28 minutes. Which is not to say that I actually slept for 1 hour and 28 minutes because what I can't track with this application is how long it actually takes me to fall asleep. Figuring an average of at least 10-20 minutes to fall asleep after every tap, the longest I might have actually slept is an hour and 18 minutes. The longest I slept. Wow. I mean, I i know I'm an insomniac and I know pregnancy has made it that much worse, but to actually see how many times I'm awake, up, moving around, trying to fall back to sleep-- well, it's startling. And this is what most of my nights look like. Non-pregnant isn't much better. I wake up fewer times but I'm awake much longer in between (an hour or more).

So what does a good night look like? Same as above, except there will be a 2 (or if I'm really, really lucky 3) hour chunk in the mix. A 2-3 hour chunk and a few of the one-ish hour stretches like above and I feel like I can function pretty well. I have no idea what sleeping 8 hours straight right now would do for me. I could probably solve the world's problems and find a cure for cancer.

Between anemia and gestational diabetes (which I just discovered I have and is another blog post in the making) causing fatigue and my erratic sleep schedule causing fatigue and not being able to have caffeine to counter all of that fatigue-- I'm pretty damned tired most of the time. All I can hope is that once the baby is born and I'm not dealing with the physical stuff and I can actually have caffeine again, maybe being the sole caregiver to a newborn won't be all that exhausting for me.

I can hope.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

31 Weeks

Where Have I Been? (31w0d)

(This is not entirely baby-related, but for readers who don't also read my primary blog, this will catch you up on my life in general. I will try very hard to get back on the baby track and update more regularly.)

Well, hello there. So nice of you stop by and see if I'm still alive. I am, thank you very much. Though there are days when proving that biological fact (breathe in, breathe out) is about all I manage to accomplish. Rough week or so. Very rough. I mean, not death rough or finding out you have cancer rough or being diagnosed as allergic to chocolate rough, but pretty damn rough. And I'm tough, so you'll just have to trust me on how rough it has been.

Jay is in Dubai, UAE. If you don't know where Dubai is, you can visit their Department of Tourism and Commerce. Or, you know, visit Dubai. I've always been a bit geographically challenged, so I did have to look it up initially to get a better sense of where it was. Geography wasn't offered my senior year of high school because of low enrollment. I bet many of my former classmates don't know where Dubai is, either.

Anyway, Dubai. A far cry from Iraq, though I've had people ask me if it's like being in Iraq. From what I understand, it's like being in Las Vegas, if Vegas were owned by sheiks. Of course, you can't ski in Las Vegas (I don't think?), but you can ski in Dubai. Rich, exotic, ostentatious, decadent. That's Dubai. And that's where Jay is. Strange, huh? But this is a very strange deployment. First, he's in a hotel and not on a ship. I mean, who stays in a hotel for eight months? The Navy, that's who. That's your tax dollars at work, folks. Though his hotel is not exactly a palace, it's certainly better quarters than a naval ship and it has room service. No complaints there. Second, there's per diem-- and it's enough for three very nice meals and plenty left over for a plane ticket home when baby comes. Third, it's eight months-- the longest deployment he's ever been on. Very different for us.

All in all, it's a good deployment for a lot of reasons, including that he's relatively safe. (As safe as one can be in the Middle East, of course.) Plus, we have Skype. Skype is a wonderful and amazing thing. I think back to that first deployment after we were married (19 years ago today) and there was no internet, no e-mail, no phone calls unless he was in port and then it was ridiculously expensive. Now we have free internet video calls via Skype. The world has changed a lot in nineteen years. If not for the timing, this might be an awesome deployment (hopefully his last) and I might be visiting Dubai and learning to ski on a fake ski slope. Oh, but the timing... Timing is everything, folks.

So, while Jay is in Dubai, I'm counting down the weeks until this baby arrives. The days are flying by-- which is contrary to what most other pregnant women seem to experience in their third trimester. I've heard time drags and it seems to take forever before the baby comes, but for me it's as if the days are a blur and I went from July to October with no memory of August and September. I'm 31 weeks today. Only nine weeks-- at most-- to go. And it's flying. Whoooosh! See, there it goes. Perhaps if Jay were home and I knew I wasn't going to be alone when the baby is born, the time might be going slower. But not knowing if-- well, actually assuming-- I'll be alone makes it all so much bigger and scarier-- and go by faster.

Where have I been? I have been trying to hold it together. I have hyperventilated myself into more than one panic attack in the past couple of weeks (most recently when I took Jay to the airport) and I know that's not good for me and can't possibly be good for baby, so I'm trying to get that under control. So far, so good. I've been dealing with my over-cautious, liability-fearing doctor. Despite his concerns, I don't have pre-eclampsia, thankfully. (C'mon, whose blood pressure wouldn't have skyrocketed after the weeks I've had lately?) Apparently no gestational diabetes, either, though I did fail my one hour test. (I haven't heard about my three hour and they said they'd only call if I failed.) Baby seems to be doing very well and is very active (to the point of painful sometimes), so I'm glad for that. Me, I could be better. It is what it is, though.

I'm looking for a doula. I'm reading up on natural childbirth. I'm working on my to do list(s) and trying to take care of the things we didn't do while Jay was home. (Though he managed to do quite a lot before he left.) I still have a birth plan to write and a hospital bag to pack. I figure I need to pack that hospital bag sooner rather than later because I keep hearing of women having their babies early. Two so far-- 26 weeks and 30 weeks. I'm hoping for nine more weeks, for baby's health and my sanity, but I know it really could happen at any time. Packing the hospital bag will make it all the more real. I'm not ready for real. I'm ready for a great big dish of creamy denial smothered in rich blissful ignorance syrup. Please.

Mantra of the next twoish months: I can do this. It will be fine. Jay will be here before the baby is born. Even if Jay is not here, I can do this alone. I will be fine. Baby will be fine. All will be fine.

Song playing in a continuous loop in my brain: "Help!" by the Beatles.

Oh, the dichotomy that is me.

So, that's where I've been and where I am now. Sleep deprived due to various aches and pains and restless pets and 2 AM panic attacks (me, not the pets). Relieved that I got Fairy Tale Lust in by my deadline, but now anxious to hear what my publisher thinks so I can write some lovely acceptance letters (and a whole bunch more not so fun rejection letters) and promote the book. Worried about myself, Jay, the baby. Blue, edging into depression. Trying to stay busy (not difficult) and keep my brain off the scary stuff (impossible). Pampering myself in some small ways (naps, taking myself to lunch, new books that have nothing to do with babies, breastfeeding or parenting). Trying to make time slow down so Jay has time to catch a plane from 7,000 miles away to be here for his son's birth. Looking to the future, when things won't be so scary (whenever that is). Planning some trips for next year to promote FTL (Nashville, Chicago, New York... ?). Surviving. Doing the best I can. Hanging in there.

It feels like I should be happier, excited. I'm not. I'm just in limbo, anxiously waiting and hoping for the best. Hopefully baby won't hold it against me. If he does, I'll buy him a pony.